Learn more about the current projects hub members are working on below:

Dr. Rachel Burns

What are the links between mental health and physical health among people with diabetes?

People with diabetes are more likely to have elevated depressive symptoms than people without diabetes. Our research examines links between mental health and physical health among people with diabetes. This area of research includes the study of associations between positive mental health and physical health in this population.

How and when do spouses influence the health and wellbeing of people with diabetes?

Spouses influence each other’s health and wellbeing. This line of research examines spousal influences on health and wellbeing in the context of couples in which one person has diabetes.

Can strong habits help people lead healthier, happier lives?

Strong habits are impulses to perform a behaviour automatically in response to a cue in the environment. This work examines how strong habits can help people adhere to their health and wellbeing goals.

Dr. Chad Danyluck

Dr. Danyluck is a collaborator on a large interdisciplinary research project that seeks to understand how perceived discrimination among Indigenous people relates to indicators of bodily stress. The project, entitled “Discrimination and Allostatic Load among American Indians”, is led by Drs. Irene Blair (University of Colorado Boulder) and Spero Manson (University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus) and was funded by the American Heart Association. Dr. Danyluck also received pilot funding from the National Institutes of Health for a project entitled “The Effects of Discrimination and Historical Trauma on Risk Factors for Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease Among Aging American Indians and Alaska Natives”. This study examined the association between discrimination exposure and depressive symptoms among Indigenous people over the lifecourse.

Dr. Katie Gunnell

Research Study (SSHRC funded)

Existing research on screen use (e.g., smartphones, video games) and well-being has focused on how long people spend on their screens. Very little research has investigated the quality of experiences people have on screens. Using experience sampling methods, we are conducting research to identify these good versus bad quality screen experiences and how they affect well-being and health behaviours in young adults. Based on self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), we believe that if young adults feel effective while engaged with screens (versus ineffective), feel like they are connecting socially (versus being excluded), and feel like they are engaging in a way that is consistent with their own desires (versus being controlled), they will have better well-being and health behaviours as a result. The results from these studies will advance our knowledge and understanding about screen time. If we can pinpoint what makes good screen use experiences, we can develop tools to teach Canadians how to identify the quality of their own screen use.

Dr. Johanna Peetz (Hub Research Member)

Financial factors in well-being

Personal spending and financial decisions are important factors in well being: Financial security predicts overall quality of life (WHGQOL, 1995) and subjective well-being (Diener, Biswas-Diener, 2003) whereas financial stress has been linked to physical health struggles (Kahn & Pearlin, 2006). I examine the role of financial factors in two research programmes.

First, in a program of research together with Dr. Jennifer Robson (Political management, Carleton University), we examine how income volatility (swings in income regardless of amount of income) affect well-being such as financial stress, life satisfaction, and work-life balance. We find that regardless of how much money people earn, month-to-month changes in income are linked to worse psychological outcomes, especially when the changes in income as perceived outside of the worker’s control. This research is funded by the Think Forward Initiative of ING Bank.

Second in a program of research together with my PHD student Mariya Davydenko, we examine how individuals’ day-to-day spending may be brought in line with their spending goals by financial self-control strategies. We compare empirically studied self-control strategies with the kind of advice available in popular media and the strategies lay individuals report using. Several of our studies in this research program aim to promote the consistent use of financial self-control strategies and to remove barriers to strategy use. This research is funded by SSHRC.

keywords: life satisfaction, finances, financial well-being, income volatility, self-regulation, self-control

Dr. Nassim Tabri

The Antecedents and Consequences of Overvalued Ideation

Key words: Addiction, overvalued ideation, psychopathology, self-concept

Overvalued ideation refers to the overriding importance people place on a life domain (e.g., financial success, appearance, interpersonal relationships, work) for self-definition. Critically, Overvalued ideation has been shown to play a pernicious role in the etiology and maintenance of various mental disorders, including depression, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. My programme of research investigates the antecedents and consequences of overvalued ideation:

Antecedents of overvalued ideation

The aim is to identify transdiagnostic psychosocial risk and maintenance factors of overvalued ideation. My colleagues and I are pursuing this research in the contexts of eating and gambling disorders. Factors we are examining include personality (e.g., impulsivity, perfectionism, dark triad), sociocultural beliefs and perceptions (e.g., internalization of societal ideals, perceived pressure to attain the societal ideal standard), and early life experiences (e.g., adverse childhood experiences). We are also examining how these factors may work together to cultivate overvalued ideation over time. Results from this line of research will be used to develop prevention interventions for people who are at high-risk for overvalued ideation.

Consequences of overvalued ideation

The aim is to examine the cognitive and health consequences of overvalued ideation. In terms of cognitive consequences, my colleagues and I are investigating whether people with overvalued ideation have selective attention for stimuli related to the overvalued domain. Knowledge of these cognitive processes will shed light on how overvalued ideation may proliferate and maintain mental disorders. The findings will also offer novel insight into potential cognitive treatments for overvalued ideation.

As for health consequences, my colleagues and I are extending the transdiagnostic utility of overvalued ideation to understand addiction. In one line of research, we are investigating how overvaluation of financial success plays a role in the etiology and maintenance of disordered gambling. In another line of research, we are investigating whether people who overvalue a life domain engage in various health-compromising behaviours, including disordered eating, gambling, and other addictive behaviours (e.g., substance use). The findings will provide a novel perspective of the psychopathology underlying addiction.

Dr. Michael Wohl

Addiction Substitution among Gamblers Amidst COVID-19

In addiction science, the term substitution refers to the migration of activities (i.e., switching one substance for another) when recovering from a primary addiction or when access to a preferred substance is blocked. Despite the substantial literature on substitution among people in treatment for substance misuse, a paucity of empirical attention has been directed at disordered gambling. The possibility of substitution among gamblers is of particular interest in light of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the closure of licensed casinos throughout North America. In two large scale studies, my colleagues and I are examining how gamblers responded to the COVID-19 lockdown, including migration to online gambling, and changes in substance use and use of other technologies.

Addiction substitution; disordered gambling; COVID-19

Nostalgic Reverie for the Pre-Addicted Self as a Facilitator of Behaviour Change

Most people in need of behaviour change do not take action. Moreover, it has proven difficult to motivate people to engage in behaviour change. In ongoing research, we are testing a novel route to motivating behavior change—heightening a person’s sense that their addictive behaviour has fundamentally changed the self (i.e., the addiction has created self-discontinuity). Specifically, we are finding self-discontinuity motivates behaviour change by inducing nostalgic reverie for the pre-addicted self. However, nostalgic reverie is not a panacea. We are currently examining individual differences that facilitate nostalgia induced behaviour change as well as social contexts that can help and hinder the utility of nostalgia as a behaviour change agent.

Addiction; nostalgia; behaviour change

Collective autonomy support and well-being

The shared norms, values, goals, and customs that become associated with social categories are the very essence of a meaningful social identity. In this line of research, my colleagues and I ask whether all social groups feel that they are the authors of their own social identity. That is,

we assess the extent to which group members feel that their collective autonomy—their group’s freedom to define and practice its own identity— has been unduly restricted by other groups in society. Moreover, we examined the potentially deleterious effects that restrictions to collective autonomy may have for the psychological health of group members—a topic with important social implications that has yet to receive empirical attention.

Group-based emotions; intergroup relations; well-being

Casino Loyalty Programs

Casino loyalty programs (i.e., rewards programs wherein members receive rewards points in exchange for purchasing casino goods and services) have become ubiquitous as a marketing strategy. However, unlike loyalty programs in other industries, casino loyalty programs reward members for engaging in gambling—an inherently addictive activity. For this reason, there is concern that casino loyalty program membership may play a role in the development or worsening of disordered gambling. Conversely, casino loyalty programs also provide members with access to responsible gambling tools (i.e., features designed to help the player gamble in a safer way)—meaning that membership may also have harm reduction utility. Currently, there is a paucity of research that has examined whether belonging to a casino loyalty program influences the attitudes and behaviours of its members. Therefore, as a part of our research, we examine the potential benefits and consequences of casino loyalty program membership. 

Casino loyalty programs, disordered gambling, responsible gambling, attitudinal loyalty, behavioural loyalty